Loose lips sink ships—or in the case of the Donald Trump’s latest controversy, they sink lucrative business partnerships. Macy’s, ESPN, and NBC are among the businesses that have severed ties with the tycoon/reality TV star running for president after his comments denigrating Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug traffickers. And now the fallout is hitting closer to the place he’d like to call home.
Trump is currently transforming Washington, DC’s Old Post Office Pavilion—which is a mere five blocks from the White House—into a luxury hotel. But politics is getting in the way of business. On Wednesday, acclaimed restaurateur José Andrés announced he would no longer be opening a planned restaurant in the hotel, citing Trump’s offensive remarks. On Thursday, the New York Times reported that Geoffrey Zakarian, a chef and partner at several Manhattan restaurants, decided to cancel his plans to open a branch of his brasserie-style restaurant the National in the new hotel, explaining that Trump’s statements “do not in any way align with my personal core values.” Hours later, close to one hundred community leaders and Washington residents converged on the hotel site to protest Trump’s remarks, and they demanded that his name be removed from the development, which bears a gigantic blue sign bearing his name.
The protest brought out a number of local elected officials. Franklin Garcia, the district’s “shadow representative” in Congress (which has no voting representative from DC) said that the aim of the protest was to pressure additional companies to sever ties with Trump and to urge Trump to apologize for his remarks.
“We all share the same passions for making America as great as it is,” Garcia told the crowd near the hotel. “We want to send a strong message that we are against hatred and xenophobia.”
D.C shadow senator Paul Strauss issued a plea to the Department of the Interior, given that the land under the hotel is owned by the government: “We ask the DOI to take that logo off that scaffolding, on the building that belongs to the people.”
The logo is causing its own problems. The facade of the hotel is covered in a placard that reads, “COMING 2016: TRUMP,” with his name in characteristically huge letters. (Trump’s team has said that the project, conveniently, is expected to be completed near the time of the presidential election next fall.)
That prominently displayed sign has led some residents to wonder if Trump is using the hotel project as advertising for his campaign. “Because this is trumphotel.com, and because presumably this is an accurate estimate of when the hotel would be done, I’m assuming this would be legitimate signage,” says Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center, casting doubt on the notion that the sign violates any laws. “But if I were at the FEC and we got a complaint about this, I would want to know if other developments had similar signage.” And in fact, other Trump buildings opening next year don’t share that language on their signage. In Vancouver, a Trump Hotel is set to open in 2016, but the signs do not say “Coming 2016.” At Trump’s most recently completed Chicago project, there was also no such message.
Even if Trump didn’t intend to link the signage to his bid to inhabit the building down the street, Strauss’ fellow shadow senator, Michael Brown, is making that connection. “We don’t want his name on our building,” Brown said at the protest, “and we certainly don’t want him at 1600 Penn.”